More than 40 percent of private wells tested positive for coliform bacteria at least once over a 16-year period, according to a new study of Iowa state records by the Environmental Working Group and the Iowa Environmental Council.
On Wednesday, a Delaware community near a Mountaire poultry processing plant gave the company notice that in 90 days it would sue the plant for polluting its drinking water.
Seven million Americans who live in small cities and towns have worrisome levels of nitrates in their drinking water — below the federal limit of 10 milligrams per liter, but high enough to be associated with cancer in some studies, said an Environmental Working Group official. Craig Cox, head of EWG's Midwest office, said 1,683 communities had nitrate levels above 5 milligrams per liter and, when plotted on a map, they "crazily lined up with intensive agriculture."
Voluntary action will not clean up Iowa waterways, so the state Legislature must "create bold laws that address water pollution," said Bill Stowe, chief executive of the Des Moines Water Works. The utility's board of trustees decided to seek a legislative solution to high nitrate levels in the Raccoon River rather than appeal the dismissal of their lawsuit against drainage districts in three counties in northwestern Iowa.
Days after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works against farm runoff, the City Council voted to support a bill in the Iowa House allowing regionalization of the water utility, said the Des Moines Register. The chief executive of the Water Works says the regionalization bill, sponsored by a legislator who is a hog farmer, is retaliation for the lawsuit, which wanted to apply water pollution laws to agricultural runoff.
Legal fees are already approaching $2 million in the potentially landmark suit by the Des Moines Water Works against three counties in northwest Iowa over nitrate pollution in the Raccoon River, says the Des Moines Register. The Iowa Farm Bureau and Iowa Corn Growers Association offered financial aid to Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun counties following their decision to sever a relationship with the private nonprofit Agricultural Legal Defense Fund.
With corn and soybean prices plummeting, and pressure to reduce runoff from fields mounting, some Iowa farmers are turning to oats as a possible solution to both problems, says Harvest Public Media.
Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto, says it will develop its own in-field network of weather and soil monitors—including a sensor that tracks nitrate levels—to broaden its agronomic models that help farmers decide their crop strategies. The nitrate sensor could mean more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizer and less runoff into waterways.
Synthetic fertilizer accounts for more than a third of the 1.8 million tons of new nitrogen entering California each year, and animal feed accounts for another 12 percent, making agriculture the largest single source of nitrate pollution in the state, according to a new report from the UC Davis Agriculture Sustainability Institute and the University of California division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
A report by the United Nations Environment Program says drought and higher temperatures, forecast as part of climate change, can trigger a build-up in crops of chemical compounds that are toxic to animals and humans. Nitrates can accumulate to dangerous levels in grain during drought, while carcinogenic fungal aflatoixins are expected to become an increasing risk in higher latitudes as average temperatures rise.